Mat­zo Balls for Break­fast and Oth­er Mem­o­ries of Grow­ing Up Jewish

Alan King and Friends. Fore­word by Lar­ry King.
  • Review
By – September 21, 2012

This col­lec­tion of trib­utes, obser­va­tions, rem­i­nis­cences and griev­ances by diverse hands is the brain child of Alan King him­self, the inim­itable com­ic philoso­pher. Pub­lished not long before King died (May, 2004), the book offers a fas­ci­nat­ing and thought – pro­vok­ing read” for the curi­ous indi­vid­ual who is wait­ing in an office for pro­fes­sion­al assis­tance, or in a sta­tion for the right train or bus to come around. For read­ers who can afford an extend­ed peri­od of leisure­ly read­ing, the book will reveal famil­iar but still instruc­tive pat­terns of Amer­i­can Jew­ish expe­ri­ence. Exam­ples: what it meant to have to endure raw prej­u­dice and insult in the metrop­o­lis or the small town, and what it was like for a wide range of achiev­ing types” to deal with the Jew­ish cul­ture and reli­gion they were born into. In addi­tion, there are the big famil­iar names, the celebs, who make up a con­sid­er­able part of the list of con­trib­u­tors and fans of Alan King. 

And there are the curi­ous tid­bits of infor­ma­tion. Susan Stam­berg men­tions that she found her con­fir­ma­tion class teacher in Man­hat­tan, Mr. Lear, very inter­est­ing, until he switched his instruc­tion from Hebrew lessons to rhum­ba lessons. This PBS com­men­ta­tor, who has spent her adult life in Wash­ing­ton, DC, laments that there isn’t a sin­gle decent deli’ in that city. Alan Der­showitz relates that as a school­boy in Brook­lyn, he made bad grades and received an F in “‘plays well with oth­ers.’” Bil­ly Crys­tal dis­cuss­es how big Alan King was in so many ways. Now, though, he is a fall­en red­wood in the for­est. These sam­plings from the book give only a mod­est sug­ges­tion of its rich contents.

Samuel I. Bell­man is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Cal­i­for­nia State Poly­tech­nic Uni­ver­si­ty of Pomona. He has been writ­ing on Jew­ish Amer­i­can writ­ers since 1959.

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